Sun Ra Arkestra graced Pittsburgh fans, in September, with an outstanding performance at the New Hazlett Theater. The night also included a highlighted art expression by Charlotte Ka.
“The Arkestra moves into the 21st century with strong leadership committed patriots of sound science,” said performance attendee Gregory Stone.
The icon and musical game-changer, Sonny Blount, better known as music philosopher Sun Ra, passed away in 1993, but the Sun Ra Arkestra continues with incredible musical momentum.
The late Sun Ra was one of the great bandleaders, pianists and surrealists of jazz. The musical genius was replaced by Marshall Allen, leader of the now 14-member band.
Besides Allen, some of the members are John Gilmore, Pat Patrick, Ronnie Boykins and Clifford Jarvis. At 92, saxophonist Allen keeps the Sun Ra Arkestra more comprehensive than most jazz bands.
“Some musicians found Sun Ra’s music difficult, because they’d play it straight and he wanted them to play crooked. He was such a great composer. He was good at knowing your personality and your potential,” Allen said. “He was one of those spirit people who knew what to give you, what to write for you, and how to get the best out of you. I’ve never been in another band where there was a leader like that.”
Sun Ra Arkestra released their newest album Oct. 21. The album is entitled “Strange City” and is available on CD and LP.
“Everytime I thought I knew something, I didn’t. He’d come up with something else,” Allen said. “Some people never get a person like that in their life—great teacher, philosopher and innovator. I had to live and eat, and sleep with it. I follow his way of doing things. I stayed in the band so long it just comes automatic. Now, I put some of my things in there too, but it still sounds like Sun Ra. You’re always influenced by who taught you, see.
“All you got to do is listen, everybody finds something in the music that they really like. But they also get what they need too.”
Allen added, “Sun Ra used to say—in the ’50s and ’60s we did a lot of things. With this music, they’ll understand what I’m talking about in the 21st century. Now they do. It’s like anything else. For everybody who’s a little ahead of time, it takes time for the people to catch up and to appreciate and know what’s going on.”
(J.L. Martello contributed to this article.)
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